Got the chance to ask Dave 1 and P-Thugg of the amazing electro-funk duo, Chromeo, a few questions!
Synth History: What were some of your favorite records growing up?
Dave 1: When I was a teenager and Check Your Head came out, that was life changing. Not only did it mark a transition from rock to rap for an entire generation, it also had so much funky live instrumentation (in large part thanks to Money Mark’s role as keyboard wiz). When I met Pee in high school, his band played “Pow”. The first Jamiroquai album too, that was crucial. These records injected analog synth tropes into the 90s, when most other bands were either grungy or classic rock. But what Pee and I bonded over the most growing up was Jodeci’s The Show, The Afterparty, The Hotel. That’s gotta be the best R&B album of all time, but it’s also full on modern funk. It’s got talkbox, crazy Moog basslines all over the place, beautiful guitar work…we used to listen to that non stop. P-Thugg: I remember as a pre-teen, my favorite album was Micheal Jackson Bad. It was my first musical awakening. All those reverb'ed out, extremely wet and cold, non-analog, Roland D-50 sounds really marked me as magical “American Music”. I had just immigrated to Canada and it was my first exposure to Western music. (Until a couple of years ago I still thought it was a Korg M1 on that album). Up until high school, I really only listened to mostly MJ and rap like EPMD and LL Cool J. It was in high school that I discovered rock and guitar-driven music. That’s when I started playing instruments and understanding how to deconstruct songs into different instruments. Once that part of my brain was activated and I discovered Funk music with Dave, that was a wrap. It became the only thing I ever wanted to do. Then we started collecting dollar bin records and the first time I heard Zapp it was game over. Like Dave said after that came all the stuff like Acid Jazz, Jamiroquai, Jodeci, Outkast...
Synth History: Do you remember the first show you performed as Chromeo?
Dave 1: Absolutely. It was late August 2002 in Montreal at a party with Tiga at a venue called SAT. A-Trak cued our instrumentals from a DAT machine at front of house. I moved to New York the next day. P-Thugg: I have the worst memory in the world for chronological events. I remember that show vividly and what I wore, but I couldn’t place it on a calendar. Synth History: Top three synths of all time?
Dave 1: For me it’s the Juno-106. It’s the most versatile, the chorus sounds incredible, it’s straightforward, has great pads, great bass sounds…we could make a whole song with just that thing.
Then it’s the Elka Synthex because it’s so elegant, it’s like a Prophet 5 with added stability and width. I have no idea how it works but I know exactly what it does and it’s something no other keyboard can emulate. Lastly, a curveball: the keyboard version of the classic Nord Modular. We used it all over our 3 first albums — that’s the bass sound on “Needy Girl” — and we just brought it back out. It works just like an analog synth (Pee has a dedicated old laptop for it with a modular simulator where you make your patches), but it sounds colder, cooler, so to speak. It’s our go-to whenever we need a bassline to feel modern. And it doesn’t have that annoying added shimmer that a lot of new synth reissues have with their tacky built-in effects
P-Thugg: I would start with Korg Mono/Poly, probably the most underrated and most versatile synth ever made. The power that comes with stacking those 4 oscillators and manipulating the X-MOD for a killer bass sound. The response of the envelopes (the most important part of a synthesizer, imo) is fantastic and extremely expressive. I would love trying a Korg-35 filter inside a Mono/Poly, that’s a retirement project. Second would be the Prophet 5. I don’t have any preference for the different REVs, I just like all of them. Layering two takes of a Prophet 5 on L and R channels, fully panned, and you can beat any modern synth or VST. Used properly it’s the warmest and most comforting synth to play with. Then you put the unison on and boom, TKO.
I also highly recommend the Tauntek firmware update to get those extra fun functions like 2 voice unison. Lastly, I would go for the Roland Jupiter-8. The monster poly-synth. Again here, super expressive envelopes, silky smooth resonance on the filter, the flexibility of making it a 8 voice mono or 4 voice stereo instrument. A masterpiece.
Synth History: If you had the chance to make music in another decade, which decade would that be?
Dave 1: None, in the 70s and 80s we’d get our asses kicked by all the OGs. P-Thugg: I would love to go in the future and hear what music will sound like in 100 years. I have a theory that we will start understanding music differently. It will be like when people started drawing with perspective, we will hear another dimension than just notes, chords, textures and intervals. We might even drop the concept of notes and harmony and just listen to white noise.
Synth History: Favorite song that utilizes the vocoder or talkbox?
Dave 1: “Say Goodbye” by Hiroshi Sato. Talkbox is “So Ruff, So Tuff”.
P-Thugg: Vocoder song “Hips” by Mtume. Talkbox song “Computer Love” by Zapp Synth History: Analog, digital, or both?
Dave 1: Analog. Digital is just used for convenience. P-Thugg: Analog. Unless I’m in the mood for late 90s analog modeling, or a lush Synclavier pad, or a Kenny G ballad, or a hot Korg Triton nylon string guitar sound... Actually just both.
Synth History: If you could each give your younger selves one piece of advice, what would that be?
Dave 1: Stress less, try to enjoy the process.
P-Thugg: Learn more electronics repair…
References: Chromeo, Retro Synth Ads (Juno 106, etc).